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O 281714Z OCT 03 
FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT 
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8293 
INFO ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE 

CONFIDENTIAL BEIRUT 004562 



E.O. 12958: DECL : 10/28/2013 
TAGS: PREL PGOV PTER LE SY LY 

SUBJECT: LEBANON: SPEAKER BERRI URGES U.S. TO WORK WITH 
SYRIA ON IRAQ 

REF: STATE 299270 

Classified By: Ambassador Vincent M. Battle; reasons 1.5 (b), (d) . 

IQ. (C) Summary: Ambassador met with Parliament Speaker 

Nabih Berri October 27. The discussion focused principally 
on Iraq and Syria. Berri, having just returned from 
Damascus, again tried to impress upon us that Syrian 
President Asad desires a good relationship with the United 
States and that Syria is well-positioned to play a positive 
role in support of U.S. objectives in Iraq. Berri was 
remarkably uninformed about the details of Hizballah's 
October 17 challenge to an embassy motorcade in south 
Lebanon, but expressed the view that embassy personnel should 
be able to travel freely in the south. Berri intends to 
block any restoration of relations between Lebanon and Libya 
until Qaddafi responds satisfactorily on the disappearance of 
Imam Musa Sadr. End summary. 

LEBANESE PARLIAMENTARIANS VISIT DAMASCUS 



112. (C) Berri visited Damascus October 25-26 with the new 

Lebanese Parliament committee heads. Syrian President Bashar 
al-Asad met with the Lebanese deputies and, according to both 
Berri and Deputy Speaker Elie Ferzeli, was very frank about 
Syria not wanting any problems with the United States. Berri 
will return to Damascus next weekend for an extraordinary 
meeting of Arab League parliamentarians, which he said was 
called to discuss Israel's October 5 air strike on Syria, and 
is being held in Damascus as an expression of solidarity with 
the Syrians. Lebanon will assume the chairmanship of the 
group of Arab parliamentarians in February for the next two 
years . 

SYRIA, IRAQ AND THE U.S.: WHO NEEDS WHO? 



1.3 . (C) Berri returned repeatedly to a theme he had 
emphasized prior to the war in Iraq: that the U.S. needs 
Syria to help stabilize Iraq — more than Syria needs the 
United States. Syria is the only one of Iraq's neighbors 
that can play such a role, Berri argued. His analysis is 
that if Turkish troops enter Iraq, they will have trouble 
first with the Kurds, then with the Shi ' a and Sunnis. While 
Iran might have some influence, the Shi ' ites in Iraq are 
Arabs and many fought against Iran in the Iran-Iraq war. The 
Syrians, on the other hand, already have deep ties with the 
Kurds. Barzani and Talabani have lived in Damascus. When 
Saddam Hussein attacked Iraq's Shi 'a, many fled to Syria and 
found a welcome reception there. Among the Sunni 
populations, elements in the Syrian and Iraqi Ba ' ath parties, 
nominally political opponents, do talk with each other. 
Finally, the patriarchs for Iraq's Christian minorities can 
all be found in Damascus. The main impediment to Syria 
helping stabilize the situation in Iraq, according to Berri, 
is that Israel will not let the U.S. allow Syria to take on 
this role. 

1.4 . (C) Ambassador reminded Berri that the issue of support 
for terrorism is very much on the table in our relationship 
with Syria. Berri responded that Syria shares the fight 
against "Sunni terrorism," but that no one can convince any 
Arab that Israeli Prime Minister Sharon's actions against 
Palestinian civilians are not terrorism. Berri lamented that 



the problems between the U.S. and the Arab world all start 
with Israel. He added that Bashar told the Lebanese 
parliamentarians that the Arabs are partially at fault for 
not reaching out effectively to make their case to the U.S. 
and to the American people. 

f5 . (C) Berri remains in close touch with many Shi ' ite 

leaders in southern Iraq, so Ambassador briefed Berri on the 
arrest of associates of Moqtada al Sadr, per reftel. Berri 
noted he had received a communication October 27 from 
Ayatollah Sistani, who said that Sadr had arrived at 
Sistani 1 s office and tried to see him, but Sistani refused 
and referred him to his staff. Berri continues to discount 
Abdel Qadr al-Bakr Hakim as a possible political force, 
despite his transformation from a "militia" member to a 
"civilian . " 

HIZBALLAH CHALLENGE TO EMBASSY MOTORCADE 



16. (C) Ambassador recounted the October 17 incidents of 

Hizballah interference with an embassy motorcade in south 
Lebanon. Berri was surprised; his impression of the 
incidents, based on local media reports, was that the U.S. 
had not provided proper notification to the GOL. He was 
taken aback to learn that the motorcade was under ISF escort 
when challenged by Hizballah. Berri 1 s view is that everyone, 
including all foreign diplomats, should be able to travel 
freely anywhere in the south. 

BUDGET WOES 



1.7. (C) Berri expressed frustration with the debate over the 

budget, which soon will move to Parliament for consideration. 

He said he does not support the current budget, nor the fact 
that there are currently "two budgets" -- one introduced by 
the government, and one put forward by President Lahoud. 

Berri repeated a statement he made in a recent speech that 
Finance Minister Siniora does not have the right "to give up 
on" implementing Paris II (by submitting a budget not in 
accordance with Paris II targets), because the Paris II 
commitments were undertaken by the entire government of 
Lebanon . 

LIBYA NOT TO BE REHABILITATED 



1.8. (C) Berri exploded when the Ambassador asked whether 

apple exports to Libya might be resumed, following the visits 
to Libya of Lebanese delegations of politicians and 
industrial association leaders. Berri refuses to allow 
relations with Libya to be mended "over commercial issues" 
and has asked Agriculture Minister Ali Hassan Khalil to 
explore with the government of Tunisia the possibility of 
exporting Lebanon's bumper apple crop to Tunisia. Berri said 
he has been waiting "since 1978" for an answer from Qaddafi 
on the fate of missing Lebanese Imam Musa Sadr. Berri has 
sent many messages to Qaddafi, and the Libyan leader's 
response, until one and a half years ago, was always that 
Musa Sadr had disappeared in Europe, not Libya. More 
recently, according to Berri, Qaddafi has "confessed" that 
Musa Sadr disappeared in Libya — and Berri said he will not 
rest until Musa Sadr's body has been returned to Lebanon. 



BATTLE